Easily the most underrated in the series and arguably the best is Mission Impossible III. Coming out in 2006 during Tom Cruise’s couch jumping insanity it was overlooked by many, which was definitely a mistake. JJ Abrams put his signature twists on the franchise and made one hell of a fun action movie. Anyway, onto the summary (*spoilers from this point on*)
So, in true JJ Abrams/Lost fashion the movie opens with a scene near the end of the movie. Ethan Hunt is chained to a chair and is told there’s an explosive in his head. Villain Owen Davian (played brilliantly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is demanding that Ethan turn over the “Rabbit’s Foot”, a device that is implied is some sort of biological weapon but it’s never revealed what it actually is. Ethan supposedly already did but Davian isn’t having it and threatens to kill Ethan’s wife Julia. Davian begins counting down and Ethan desperately tries to convince Davian he can get the Rabbit’s Foot. The scene ends with Davian counting to 10 and pulling the trigger. Enter the Mission Impossible theme and an extremely quick credit sequence.
Flashing back a few days we find Ethan and Julia having an engagement party. JJ Abrams must have been going through this fad where he wanted long party sequences because the same thing happened in Cloverfield. Anyway, the party goes on for a while until Ethan gets a call that he’s won a free trip, which is code for meet at 7/11. Ethan sneaks out by saying they need more ice and heads to the 7/11 to meet his old friend John Mussgrave (played by Dr. Manhattan himself Billy Crudup). Mussgrave tells Ethan that one of Ethan’s students, Lindsey Ferris (Abrams alum Keri Russell), has been captured by goons under the command of black market arms dealer Owen Davian. Normally the Impossible Mission Force would disavow any knowledge of their actions (they probably still would if Anthony Hopkins was still cracking the whip) but the information she has on Davian might be too important to let go. Ethan is reluctant since he’s not on active duty anymore but Mussgrave gives him a disposable camera with a hidden video message in it and Ethan agrees to go.
Along for the ride is Ethan’s buddy Luther Strickell (Ving Rhames) along with new teammates Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Myers) and Zhen Li (Maggie Q). The team heads to Berlin and a warehouse where Lindsey is being held and overwhelm the goons with explosives and four remote control machine guns. Ethan finds Felicity, I mean Ferris, and the two manage to shoot their way out (she’s high on adrenaline so that’s how she’s able to keep up). Meanwhile Zhen attempts to steal some laptops but one of the goons manages to drop a grenade before kicking the bucket and the laptops are heavily damaged. Apparently it’s against IMF regulations to use door as Zhen, Lindsey and Ethan all jump out windows to escape the warehouse. The group gets picked up by Luther and they drive away as the entire warehouse explodes (thanks to a nifty magnetic charge Ethan threw onto a gas line). The gang then gets picked up by Declan in a helicopter, but Lindsey is starting to get some serious headaches. Davian injected a small explosive charge into her brain and while Ethan tries to disarm it with the on board defibrillator, they are being pursued by a gunship through the world’s largest field of windmills. The charge goes off before Ethan can stop it and congrats to Keri Russell for having one of the most disgusting death faces in movie history. Close her eyes or something Ethan, jeez.
After the funeral, Ethan learns that Lindsey sent him a message and he finds a microdot hidden on a postcard. He takes it to Luther who figures he can decrypt it (because he’s awesome). Ethan and Mussgrave then get their asses chewed out by the director of IMF, Theodore Brassel (Laurence Fishburne) for pretty much failing their mission. We learn that the mission isn’t a total loss however as computer nerd Benji (Simon Pegg warming up to play Scotty) discovers that Davian got an invitation to a private gala at the Vatican. Ethan decides to go rogue and lead the team in a mission to kidnap Davian and get the Rabbit’s Foot.
The team arrives in Rome and proceeds to conduct the typical overcomplicated IMF operation. Ethan and Declan will pose as delivery drivers whose truck breaks down near the walls of the Vatican. Ethan will sneak away and rappel up the wall, disable the security camera, and drop down into a courtyard. Removing his delivery uniform, he disguises himself as a priest and gets into the Vatican basement. Meanwhile, Declan changes into a tourist disguise and gets into the Vatican as well. Luther is getting into the Vatican through an underwater grate and he and Ethan meet up in the basement and blow up a wall. Ethan has also hacked into the internal cameras and looped them so Declan can meet them in the basement (after firing a tracer onto a manhole cover). Zhen is arriving at the party as a guest and Declan changes yet again into a security guard uniform and heads to the front gate to let her in. Once inside, Zhen uses a camera in a makeup mirror to get photos of Davian, since of course since it’s Mission Impossible there have to be masks and identity swaps. Luther and Ethan make the mask and Ethan gets suited up to match Davian. Zhen meanwhile, forces Davian to go the bathroom after clumsily spilling wine on him. Ethan grabs Davian in the bathroom and forces him to read a card so they can get a voice match. They lower Davian into the basement and Ethan takes his place (almost getting caught by Davian’s bodyguard) and he leaves with Zhen. They drive over the tracer and climb into the sewer to meet up with Declan and Luther, they then blow up the car so that Davian will appear dead. They then ride off into the sunset on a speedboat. Whew, Danny Ocean would think that was too complicated.
Flying back to the states, Ethan tries to get Davian to tell him who his buyers are and what the Rabbit’s Foot is. Davian just cockily says that he’s going to hurt his girlfriend or whatever and kill him in front of her. Ethan doesn’t take to kindly to this and suspends Davian over a hatch in the plane, cutting the straps holding him until Luther convinces him to stop. They arrive in Washington and head back to IMF over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Luther managed to decrypt the microdot and it turns out that Brassel is a mole working with Davian. This seems to fit as the convoy is attacked by a group of mercenaries and a Predator drone. A tense shootout occurs and despite Ethan’s best efforts, Davian escapes. Ethan tries to reach Julia but can’t and drives like a madman to the hospital she works at. While she’s heading for home she’s stopped by a creepy looking British orderly who puts some sort of dot on her arm that releases a drug that knocks her out. Ethan arrives just as he wheels her out, but she’s covered by a sheet and he runs right past, diabolical! Ethan gets a call from Davian telling him he has 48 hours to get the Rabbit’s Foot to him or Julia dies. As if things couldn’t get worse, Ethan is arrested by IMF agents
In something that must have been instituted when Anthony Hopkins was in charge, Ethan is put into some sort of muzzle thing and strapped to a table. He gets chewed out again by Brassel and it seems Mussgrave agrees, but he slips Ethan a knife. While in an elevator heading to a holding cell, Ethan escapes and heads to Shanghai, where the Rabbit’s Foot is being held. Luther and the gang arrive to help and they attempt another complicated operation. Zhen and Declan distract the roof guards with a baseball launcher while Ethan will swing from one building to the other and grab the Rabbit’s Foot. I’m not sure if they were running out out of money or something because the next thing you know Ethan is saying over the radio that he’s having a shootout with guards and then he jumps out of a window. Luckily he has a parachute but it’s too low to do anything significant. He flies around and crashes into another wind and is then pulled out by the wind and finally ends up dangling from a street light with a tanker truck barreling down on him. He drops down in the nick of time and grab’s the Rabbit’s Foot, with it’s ominous biohazard labels, and escapes with Declan and Zhen. A car chase ensues, during which Ethan needs to find a cell signal to call Davian. The gang manages to escape after Ethan leans almost under the car and shoots out the bad guy’s tires.
The group heads back to the states while Ethan has to meet with Davian. Creepy British guys arrives in a limo and tells Ethan to drink a mysterious vial of liquid. Nothing good has ever come from drinking a vial of strange liquid but Ethan does it and not surprisingly is knocked out. We then finally catch up to the first scene in the movie and Davian shoots Julia in the head. In yet another twist however we learn that Mussgrave is actually the mole and that “Julia” was Davian’s assistant in an IMF mask. Mussgrave says a lot of BS about wanting to sell the Rabbit’s Foot so that a “contained” attack can occur and then the US can launch a massive retaliatory strike and take over the country, whatever country he’s talking about. Mussgrave also wants to know what Lindsey told Ethan in her message and whether she believed that Brassel was the mole. Ethan agrees to tell after he talks to Julia. Mussgrave holds up a phone to Ethan so he can do this but forgets that Ethan is IMF’s top agent. Ethan bites Mussgrave on the hand and knocks him out. He also unlocks his handcuffs with a pen. Ethan then calls Benji and gets him to trace the location of the last call. Ethan then heads out with Benji leading him like a human GPS and finds the building where Julia is being held.
Unfortunately their reunion is short lived as Davian activates the bomb in Ethan’s head and then proceeds to beat the shit out him. Ethan manages to rally and blasts Davian with some elbows, since he’s holding his head due to the ear splitting noise of the bomb. The two then fall out a glass door and end up in the street. There’s a brief tussle but Ethan manages to get under Davian and push him into the path of an oncoming truck, a classic action movie move. Ethan then has to figure out how to disable the bomb and figures the best way is to kill himself with electricity. Julia has to flip the switch and then attempt to bring Ethan back to life. If movie CPR has taught us anything it’s that pounding on someone’s chest is the best way to bring them back, as is the case here. Ethan then comes clean about IMF and he and Julia head off to enjoy their honeymoon, but not before Brassel implies that the White House might have a mission for Ethan in the future.